Invite Your Person(a) to Thanksgiving Dinner

The past few weeks have been busy speaking- and webinar/seminar-wise, with a focus on the secret to messaging that connects — understanding the folks you hope to engage and motivate to act.

That’s my rap of late: because it’s so important but so often overlooked. Knowing what matters to your network (a.k.a. target audiences), and how they live their lives, is your key to engaging and motivating them.

But knowing your network is vital for reasons far beyond effective marketing. Understanding network members is the only path to relevant programs, services, products and fundraising. It’s at the core of organizational health.

But there’s more…When I ask nonprofit marketers like you to tell me who they’re talking with, the typical response is a demographic profile or a segment defined as “donors who have given between $500 and $1,000 in the last year.” That’s not knowing your network, it’s classifying them. That kind of reductive description of your network doesn’t get you anywhere.

This Thanksgiving, I urge you to go deeper and really forge these relationships. Here’s how:

  • Choose just one of your target audiences and drill down within that group to identify a persona–a fictional individual who represents one type of person you hope to engage.
  • Flesh out her story and write it down, based on whatever audience research or anecdotal insight you have. Include the personal side–from upbringing and neighborhood to marital situation and hobbies–as well as the professional, and patterns such as news content read regularly.
  • Create a name for her and insert a real head shot in her profile.
  • Now invite her to your Thanksgiving feast, imagining how she responds throughout the day: to your Uncle Buddy’s discussion of the flopped U.S. manufacturing sector, to the overflow of food on the table, to your family tradition of going around the
  • By Friday, you’ll have a much better understanding of who you’re speaking with. Jot that down and remember to bring your persona in to work on Monday.

This may sound hokey but it does work to build understanding, and so connection. I urge you to try it out and let me know how it goes.

Here’s more guidance on understanding your network:

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Nancy Schwartz on November 24, 2010 in Audience Research | 2 comments
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  • Really good differentiation between classifying people in your audience and knowing them. That’s a point we should all keep reminding ourselves of.

  • Great post — personas are a great way to truly understand your supporters. To complement this post, we have an example of a persona here: http://blog.causevox.com/2010/10/25/making-your-message-relevant-supporter-personas/

    One thing to note, it may be helpful to understand a supporter’s behaviors than demographics. This usually gives you a richer understanding.

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